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Celebrating The 2014 NFCCG: The Epic Scale, Part 1

The latest NFC Championship Game stakes its claim to being the single best postseason game in NFL history. According to the completely objective "Epic Scale" I just invented on the fly.

Don't you ever try me with a mediocre trophy
Don't you ever try me with a mediocre trophy
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

There are 12 components to an epic football game. (Of course there are.)

Some games check off four, or five, of six of those boxes. Those games are memorable. Some games check off nine or ten. Those games are historic.

Some games hit on all, or almost all, twelve. Those games are rare, precious, legendary. We just watched one in January.

The Epic Scale: Methodology

So, about those twelve categories. In the Epic Scale, each component is graded on a 0-10 scale. Due to weighting, the final score is out of a possible 300.

When the total is computed, a regular-season game might be lucky to score 120. A great playoff game might register 200. An average Super Bowl? Probably in the same range. A memorable, well-played title game could hit 250. Spoiler: the 2014 NFCCG destroys those scores.

Here are the twelve categories, which were selected without the 2014 game in mind.

A) What's on the line? Was it a postseason game or a significant late-season game? Weight = 4.

B) Drama. Were there lead changes and WPA swings? Were the teams evenly matched? Were there comebacks, multiple? Was there redemption or its opposite? Weight = 4.

C) Game-winning play: Was there one in the final minute? Weight = 4.

D) General quality on the field: Were both teams objectively great? Weight = 3.

E) Other memorable plays: Were there scores or turnovers or gambles that stick in a fan's memory, or that will be replayed on NFL Classic until the end of football time? Weight = 3.

F) Did the game pit historical rivals again one another -- such as Cowboys-Niners, Packers-Vikings, Broncos-Raiders -- while involving some of the league's elite franchises? Weight = 3.

G) Historical significance: Did the game portend the beginning or end of an era, or both? Weight = 2.

H) Personalities: Was there serious star power on the field and on the sidelines? Was there an unlikely hero? Weight = 2.

I) Was the game physical? Weight = 2.

J) Statistical significance: Did a player or a team accomplish something numerical worth celebrating? Weight = 1.

K) Controversy: Was there enough to stimulate conversation but not enough to taint the outcome? Weight = 1.

L) Viewership: Did the game reach a large TV audience? Weight = 1.

The three most important categories are weighted quadruple; the three next are weighted triple; the three next double; finally, the last three receive only single weight.

Scoring the NFCCG

A) Meaning = 10. In this scale, all conference title and SB games automatically get 10, divisional playoff games 9, wild-card games 8, late-season playoff implication games 6 or 7, rivalry games 4 or 5, others 0-3. Score = 40.

B) Drama = 10. The losing team led 10-0, then gave up the lead, then retook it, 17-10, then trailed 20-17, then had a chance to reclaim it again within the final minute. The victorious team saw its win probability fall below 25 percent on four (four!) separate occasions, while surpassing 75 percent three separate times. The teams each went for it twice on fourth down, converting three tries into one touchdown apiece. Score = 40.

C) Game-winner = 10. Yes there was one such play. Score = 40.

D) Greatness = 10. The game featured two of the very best teams in the league for two seasons running. The defending conference champion was playing the eventual Super Bowl winner. The teams were ranked 1st and 5th in wDVOA at the end of 2012, then again 1st and 6th in 2013. They'd combined for a 47-16-1 record in their past two seasons. Remove their games against one another and against the rest of the league in 2012-13, they posted a .762 winning percentage. Score = 30.

E) Big plays = 9. The game began with a fumble; Lynch responded with a rumble. Kaepernick galloped; he also got walloped. Vernon Davis got flattened, a critical turnover happened. Wilson let it rip; Sherman left a tip. Score = 27.

As you suspected, that stunning poem is the prelude to a glorious .gif parade.

First play from scrimmage, ruh-roh


The action about which Beast Mode is


Kaepernick giraffes his way downfield for 58 yards


Avril gives Kaep a tender, Lavigne hug


Vernon and Kam renew their fond acquaintance


Jermaine Kearse fumbles, but he doesn't? Not for the faint of heart


Lynch and Wilson briefly forget how to play football, at the worst possible time


"Fourth And Seven"


25+53-15=XLVIII (just trust me)


Seriously, all of that happened in one single game.

/pause for breath

/resume scoring...

F) Rivalry = 8. The NFCCG pitted two bitter rivals against each other, as you've noticed, but just misses being a 9 or a 10 only because the rivalry is still relatively new by NFL standards. Score = 24.

G) History = 8. Also kind of an "incomplete" on this one. There exists a possible upgrade for a 9 if Seattle's ascendancy continues and San Francisco becomes the foil for many years. Or if that win propels the Hawks to additional titles this decade, enough to turn Seattle into one of the most decorated franchises in league history. (Two more Lombardis would do exactly that, lifting the Hawks from a tie for 13th most titles to 6th most.) Score = 16.

H) Personalities = 9. Not just the players -- two young popular quarterbacks, Sherman, the rest of the LOB, Beast Mode, a star-studded Niners defense -- but also the polarizing coaches with a history between them. The Star Force was strong in this one. Score = 18.

I) Physicality = 9. The teams were renowned across the league for their physical play. Score = 18.

J) Statistics = 3. This IS the weakest link. Not much besides Harbaugh's third consecutive NFCCG appearance, the oddity that the teams both finished with 308 total yards, and that Kaepernick became the first quarterback ever with multiple 100-yard rushing games in the postseason. Very modest individual achievements. Luckily this category is not weighted heavily. Score = 3.

K) Controversy = 9. Very nearly the perfect amount. A non-reviewable call canceled a fumble inside the two-yard line. A postgame rant went viral. Neither event impacted the final outcome. Score = 9.

L) National Attention = 9. Ratings were great. It was the most watched non-overtime NFCCG since 1997. 60.3 million people saw Richard Sherman complete the game-sealing pass to Malcolm Smith in the end zone. Score = 9.

TOTAL: 274 (out of a possible 300)

That's the score to beat. In Part 2, which'll run later this month, I'll run twelve games through the scale: four Seahawk playoff games, just for context, and eight of the most celebrated NFL playoff games ever. Pretty sure the 274's going to stand though.

Speaking of which, some research has led me to a temporary short list of Best Postseason Games Ever:

The list is extremely non-comprehensive.

So your turn to shape Part 2 has arrived: tell me where I might've misjudged the NFCCG, and let me know which other game should be considered among the greatest of all time, and should thus be given a chance to top 274. Not that it will.